Frying Pan Tower is located 32 miles off the coast of North Carolina and rises 135' above the Atlantic Ocean.
The rich history of the tower and the reasons it is still with us today have their humble beginnings back in the middle of the 19th century when the shallow waters of the Frying Pan Shoals were still making navigation treacherous for large sea-faring vessels. In 1854 a U.S. Coastguard lightship was finally stationed at the shoals, and for the next 110 years, dedicated crews manned this lightship 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, even in the most treacherous of weather conditions.
In the early 1960’s, a plan to erect a permanent steel structure to replace the lightship took form. The structure would be a modified Texas drilling platform designed to provide housing and support for the crewmen while still warning ships of the shallow waters. Construction was completed in 1964.
In 1979 the light station was fully automated so it would no longer need to be manned and the responsibility for its operation was shifted to the Oak Island Coast Guard station. The subsequent development of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and improvement in radar eventually rendered the station obsolete, and in 2004 it was retired.
Although no longer in operation, it could not be dismantled or relocated because it was in a protected reef area. In 2010, it was purchased at auction with restriction placed upon it due to the protected reef.
For a while. the station was converted to a bed & breakfast in order to generate funds for updating, maintenance and repairs. That program is no longer being offered and today, the Frying Pan Tower Restoration Project is managed by FPTower Inc., a federal and state (NC) registered non-profit organization.
The goals for restoration have remained the same over the years and the benefits of restoration include providing safety to mariners, a location for environmental research and education studies, and the shelter of a natural ecosystem for marine wildlife.
Today the tower is powered using wind turbine and solar energy for electricity, has a filtration system for potable water, and high-speed Internet for communications.
The main level of the tower is a furnished 5,000 sq. ft. livable space with a fully equipped stainless-steel kitchen, a common area for dining and recreation, 9 bedrooms, a washer and dryer, hot shower, and toilet facilities. There is also a helicopter landing pad and 2 high-speed hoists for accommodating supplies, volunteers, and scuba divers from boats to the tower.
All restoration projects at the tower are volunteer-driven. There is a critical dependance on volunteers who are willing to provide their time and talent for restoration projects on and offshore. Many of these projects require volunteers skilled in welding, electrical work, painting, and metal working.
While the labor for projects is provided by volunteers, the cost of materials and the cost of sustaining operations is not. As a result, FPTower Inc. depends heavily on monetary donations, on-line merchandise purchases, and the funds generated by its fractional investment program.
Here are a few examples of current projects that require funding for their completion:
Replace and Install New Watertight Portals
Each side of the tower has watertight doors to keep out the elements during hurricanes, stormy weather, and other extreme ocean events. The current doors are over 50 years old, are in poor condition and are in the process of being replaced.
Install Seafloor Mooring and Buoy System
Because the sea floor around the Frying Pan Tower is a protected reef, there are restrictions on dragging objects like anchors across it or other actions that could damage or destroy it. FPTower Inc has secured permission to drill non-obtrusive anchors into the bedrock to moor vessels for access on the tower.
Replace Cross Pipes and Replace Cathodic Protection System
These two projects are necessary due to the corrosion effect of salt water is aggressive. The existing structure needs to be reinforced to provide a platform for water level activities and research and a new Cathodic Protection System will help reduce corrosion as well.
FRYING PAN TOWER IMPORTANT LINKS
Volunteer application: https://fptower.org/volunteer/volunteer-application/
LINKS TO WEBCAMS ON YOUTUBE
Look far out into the Atlantic ocean from the tower and watch the weather shift and the day come and go from 34 miles off the coast at https://youtu.be/vGimsBVpuN8
What marine life is found 34 miles off the coast of North Carolina? Watch live and find out more about the sharks residing in these waters at https://youtu.be/og8bbxl0iW8
Watch more live footage from beneath the tower at https://youtu.be/bqaXUYOBf_o